Where do you even start? I have the blessing with my job of being able to relate to others in their most vulnerable state and say, “I get it. You just need a little extra help, but the thought of reaching out and calling someone is terrifying and overwhelming.” Let’s break it down to make it as simple as possible.
Sadly, getting the help you need can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Most insurance plans cover psychiatry but not all cover counseling. Know your plan and what it covers. If your plan is lacking, as most are in areas of mental illness. Some counseling practices and psychiatric offices will work out a payment plan with you. Some even use a sliding scale for payment, which means you pay depending on your total household income.
If you feel comfortable, some churches can recommend practices in the area and even help with your bills.
Also, your employer may offer EAP (employee assistance program) services. Some EAPs offer a limited number of counseling services over the phone free of charge. These services follow HIPAA regulations, which means all of your personal health information remains confidential. The only exception would be if you disclose thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
These are MDs. If you are to the point where regular day-to-day functioning is very difficult or just not happening, they are your pick. Most mental illnesses do require some form of medication, and psychiatrists have the best knowledge of prescriptions and supplements. In my experience, most of these guys are so smart they are a little socially awkward. They treat the chemical imbalance, but do not deal with the problematic thinking that leads to the problematic behaviors.
Side note: If you start medication it will need to be periodically monitored and tweaked. Body chemicals/hormones change and your medications will need to change with those. Think of it as being similar to someone with diabetes. It’s something you’re going to have to deal with and will require some lifestyle changes to properly manage. But you would never tell a diabetic to just suck it up or that it was all in their head. Having a good psychiatrist on your team can be a great asset.
Personally, I have not had experience with these. But here’s what I’ve dug up. These are PhDs or PsyD (Doctorate of Psychology) and have extensive training along with state licensure. Common informal names are “therapist” and “counselor.” Most psychologists cannot prescribe medications, though in some states they can.
They can be LPCs (licensed professional counselors), LSWs (licensed social worker), or PhDs (as previously stated). Over the years I’ve become a bit of a counseling connoisseur. I had some great ones and some really terrible ones. I’m going to try to explain what they do in a very simplified way.
Dealing with mental illness can be traumatic for all those involved. It not only takes a personal toll but can also affect your job, marriage, family, and friends. A counselor is more of a people person. They can help explain what you’re going through, common symptoms of your illness, as well as work with you on non-medicated (or with your medication) treatment plans. A counselor can work with you on what’s really behind those funky behaviors and actions you’re experiencing. It can be a good idea to get your spouse or family in on this as it can affect them too.
Making the Call: Action Plan
The key is to make this as mindless as possible.
You have two options:
1) Look under your insurance plan’s website for a list of practitioners in your area.
2) Google “counselors” or “psychiatrists” in your area. Or for counselors check out the following sites:
Pick 3-5 to call. When you call ask the following questions:
- Do you accept [insert your insurance plan]?
- If they do not and you still want to check them out ask, “what is the fee per session?”
- Are you taking new clients?
- Do you specialize in any particular area?
- Not all counselors have the best understanding all mental illnesses. Some specialize in addiction, marriage and family, children, depression, etc.
- When is the soonest I can be seen?
If they aren’t taking new clients say, “thank you,” and hang up and call the next one on your list.
Is it a good fit…
With a MD:
More than likely you’re not really going to “click with” your psychiatrist on a deep personal level. If you do, stick with them you’ve found a jewel. Most treatment plans with medications take a minimum of a month before you begin to see improvements. Even then there are various combinations of meds and dosages that can make significant improvements. Just be patient and give it time.
(Side note: Medication is great, but there are a lot of other things you can do to help manage symptoms while you’re waiting for everything to kick in.)
With a Counselor:
I have a 3 sessions rule I’ve developed for myself over the years. The first session is mainly you giving your personal background. By the 3rd you can typically get a good idea of how you relate to the counselor and if they really get you. For me it was important to find someone who understood and supported my faith.
If its not working, find someone else and move on. It’s not personal. Not everybody is going to click; your counselor knows this. What is important is that you find someone you do click with. You need to feel comfortable being open and vulnerable with them.
I hope this helps! I wish I could be there to hold your hand and walk you through it. I know taking this first step is very difficult; you can do it! I’m here to cheer you on in the mean time!